A properly structured brand guidelines document gives practical advice on how to size and display elements such as logos, typefaces and colours. It will also outline best practice examples to show how a visual system is constructed.
The role of brand guidelines is often underestimated, however they play an essential role in designing consistent, ‘on-brand’ design. Guidelines help designers and brand builders to make decisions quickly and confidently without compromising the integrity of the overall visual system — which can be so easily forgotten when working with multiple contributors across many projects. The real advantage of brand guidelines is having everything documented in one place. This is sometimes referred to as a ‘brand bible’ or ‘brand book’ as it has all the information needed to stay on track.
Another advantage of good brand guidelines is to prevent designers or marketers from going off-piste and creating their versions of what they think a brand should be. Businesses spend a lot of time, money and energy throughout the branding process, so it is important to have a clearly defined set of rules to follow. As with other areas of brand design, consistency is key — and brand guidelines are essentially the rule book to help police this.
When dealing with multiple locations, languages or suppliers, it can be a time-consuming process to communicate the specifics of a brand project, particularly if this forms part of a set of the established workflow. For example, when creating new expressions of a product, a spirits brand will have the bottle sizes, shapes and material specified in a brand guidelines document which contributors can easily refer to, avoiding the chance of human error or time constraints.
Recent examples of brand guidance work include the rebrand of Halley Stevensons, Back Onside and Heath Diamonds.
Brand Guidelines are essential for businesses with multiple contributors when it comes to design consistency, as well as setting clear rules about how to use the visual system of a brand consistently across all brands, products and touchpoints.
There are many types of brand guideline documents. The most common is the general brand book; this will contain most of the information required for a company, spanning print, digital and experiential applications as well as company-wide information such as a brand proposition, values and much more. However, there are cases where more specific guidelines are required. For example, large multinational companies with diverse product and service offerings will require more detailed guidance in relation to products or specific regions.
Specific product brand guidelines are necessary for businesses that need to create a distinctive, recognisable identity in order to stand out from the competition. This is increasingly important for technology brands as products can scale very quickly and need to be quickly defined. Product brand guidance might cover topics such as how to talk about specific USPs, how products should be presented and in what circumstances. A range of finished applications will usually be defined to show ‘best practice’ examples — for example, various touchpoints such as packaging, advertising or retail displays should be considered as well as any printed material.
Digital brand guidelines are an increasingly important area of documentation to help establish consistency, particularly when dealing with a large multinational organisation. As well as content standards and brand values, these guidelines will often outline best practices for use of the latest digital technologies such as mobile responsiveness or animations. Digital design is an area that has evolved rapidly in recent years; it can be difficult to keep up-to-date without any guidance on what is expected from designers.
Brand guidelines provide reassurance to the organisation that everything will be executed in a way that reflects its brand and company values.
Digital brand guidelines will also include direct advice such as when and where to use specific elements such as typefaces, rules around accessibility and user experience design. For example, Google does a great job of showing their design language in an online format.
Print brand guidelines are a traditional area within the graphic design industry, specifically aimed at brand designers creating printed touchpoints for a specific company or brand. This set of rules will offer practical advice such as the correct colour values for appropriate types of paper such as coated or uncoated, colour calibration for specific machines, image editing advice and much more.
Print production is a complex area of brand design that required explicit guidance. Without key indicators to follow, a piece of print can stray off-brand through no fault of the designer. For example, specific colours can react differently to different papers — it is therefore important that these values are tested ahead of time with the findings captured and displayed within a guidance document accordingly.
If your business would benefit from a fresh approach to brand identity development, please get in touch and we will be happy to advise on the best route forward. We recommend that a strategic audit is undertaken before starting new strategic work to ensure it uses a solid evidence base.